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Vesta Chief Blasts UK Government for Onshore Wind Restrictions

Anders Runevad, Vestas CEO

Vestas, who provided 22 of Community Windpower’s turbines, have stated that the new technology of their turbines means that the wind industry can offer one of the cheapest forms of energy for consumers, even without government subsidies.

Last year, Amber Rudd, Secretary of Energy and Climate Change announced drastic changes to policy that saw government support for onshore wind cut from April 2016. However, Runevad states that with the latest Vestas Wind Systems technology, onshore wind could compete against any other source of energy in the UK in a free market, but only if the government remove the restrictions on the latest technology.

The latest turbines from Vestas are taller, meaning they can capture more of the wind current and have bigger rotors which make wind power even more economical, increasing yield while simultaneously being quieter due to the improved gear boxes.

In December, the Bank of America published a report stating “onshore wind is either the cheapest or close to being the cheapest source of energy in most regions globally”. With carbon taxes likely to be implemented following the COP21 climate deal in Paris, wind energy is only going to become cheaper in the future.

RenewableUK have stated that the 125 meter tip-height restriction in the UK will result in the country being left behind in the international markets, where turbines are now ranging from 165 – 200 metres.

The wind energy industry in the UK states that the new sizes of turbines are less intrusive than more numerous smaller turbines. However, rural activists and around 100 backbench Conservative MPs strongly oppose any expansion of onshore wind.

At the moment Britain has 8.5 GW of onshore wind capacity and 5 GW offshore. Wind accounted for 11% of the country's electricity last year, reaching a record 17% in December. The capacity output has continued to trend upwards as the start of 2016 saw ideal conditions for onshore wind, with Community Windpower’s own Aikengall wind farm operating at 79% capacity.

The UK still makes up half the world's offshore wind power, taking advantage of shallow banks that keep costs down. The Government is backing further expansion, expected to reach a total capacity of 11 GW by 2020. However, this is far more expensive than onshore wind development and requires similar amounts of subsidies needed for the nuclear industry, though cost is not the only factor. Wind has merits for energy security and the balance of trade.

What appears to be happening is that onshore wind growth is being stifled in Britain for political reasons just as the technology is pushing it out in front of other energy sources.

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